Service Dogs is a non-profit501(c)(3)
charitable organization located in St. Paul, MN
and serving children and adults with disabilities.
We are dedicated to providing service dogs for
individuals with psychiatric and developmental
disabilities so they may benefit from the loyalty,
friendship, and independence service dogs provide.
Pawsitivity selects and trains each dog on an
individual basis so that the specific needs and
circumstances of the person with a disability can
be considered. This process allows us to be
confident that our service dogs will encourage
independence, improve mobility, and form a loving,
therapeutic bond with their handlers.
Is fundraising required for the adoption
of a Service Dog?
Yes. The cost of socializing,
training, and placing each dog is approximately $25,000-$50,000.
We are fortunate to receive corporate in-kind
donations and private contributions, and our
families are asked to fund-raise $16,500.
Although we do everything possible to keep the
costs down, the extensive training and amount of
resources and time invested in each successful dog
(including approximately 900 hours of training),
these figures represent the minimum fundraising
necessary to keep the process sustainable.
is a Service Dog?
definition is controlled by a federal law named
the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA). The
law was revised on July 6th, 2011, and generally
it states that a service dog is individually
trained to perform tasks for people with
disabilities. Service Dogs must pass rigorous
certification tests to ensure that they can go
into work, restaurants, stores, churches,
hospitals and be specifically trained for the
person with a disability. As reported in a 2008
study, "Trained service dogs assist and also add
pride, self-reliance, and personal satisfaction to
an individual's daily life." Observations
on Assistance Dog Training and Use, Coppinger
R, Coppinger L, Skillings E.,
Hampshire College, Amherst, MA.
In addition to
specific tasks that a Service Dog is trained for,
there are many other intangibles with which
service dogs can help.
Having a disability is tough - on the
individual and on his or her family. Sometimes
individuals with disabilities struggle with
routine social interactions, whether it is
speaking to strangers, interacting with others,
or simply having a reason to leave the house. A
service dog can help with feelings of isolation
that sometimes occur as a result of the lack of
social interaction. One way service dogs help
with feelings of isolation is simply by virtue
of their presence! People are usually incredibly
curious about service dogs, and ask a lot of
questions about them, which results in a
dramatic increase in the amount of social
interaction for the individual with the
disability. These interactions dramatically
reduce feelings of isolation. In cases of
Autism Service Dogs, sometimes the whole family
benefits from this increase in social
interaction with the general public. Not only
are people curious about the service dog, but
the dog's calming influence on the child with
autism increases the number and variety of
Moreover, simply meeting the
service dog’s needs by walking and socializing
the dog gets the handler out of the house and
moving around the community. Often, having a
service dog makes people feel more comfortable
about approaching someone to talk who might have
otherwise simply been perceived as “different”
or “strange”. These casual interactions might
even lead to friendships!
Even individuals who have not been diagnosed
with Major Depression Disorder can struggle with
symptoms of depression because of the added
difficulties that are the result of living with
a disability. Getting out and about with a
Service Dog reduces isolation, increases
exercise, and can really help with depression
can refer to our page on how service dogs assist
for more information, but there are numerous
benefits associated with having a service dog.
Not only can a service dog help the handler meet
other people, but the presence of the dog in
one's life means companionship 24 hours a day, 7
days a week. Some autistic children, for
instance, may not have brothers and sisters to
play with, so a service dog can fill the role of
a friend who needs them; not just for food and
walks, but for companionship, and someone with
whom the child can share experiences.
on the "here-and-now", keeping the handler in the
It's easy to inadvertently turn inward and
focus on one's own problems, spending too much
time thinking about negative things. Having a
service dog can change this by shifting the
focus of the handler’s attention outward.
Service dogs provide external stimulation as
well as constant affection that can serve to
redirect the handler’s thoughts. This new
outward focus helps keep the handler living in
the moment and thus, happier in their day-to-day
helpful is a Service Dog?
Here are some quotes
from scientific studies published in peer-reviewed
and Blascovich, Journal of the AMA (1996)
conducted the only published study in which
individuals with severe and chronic ambulatory
disabilities (who required the use of
wheelchairs) were randomly assigned to either an
experimental or control group in a
paired-sample, controlled clinical trial
design. The study assessed the impact of
service dogs for these participants. The results
showed improvements in seven dependent measures;
Substantial increases in self-esteem, the
extent to which the individuals felt in
control of their lives, and measures general
Dramatic improvements in social interactions
and community integration.
in school attendance rates and/or part-time
Perhaps most surprising and dramatically, all
participants in this study showed dramatic
decreases in the number of hours of (paid or
unpaid) assistance they required.
Another study looking at the impact of service
dogs on various self-reported quality of life
measures for adults with a wide variety of
physical disabilities found significant
increases in almost every category. One of the
most relevant findings from the questionnaire
had to do with the extent to which participants
felt that the service dog improved with social
life in addition to performing the specific
assistance tasks for which they were trained.
The authors reported that “92% of subjects
reported that people frequently stopped to talk
with them when they went out with their dog, and
75% reported that they had made new friends
since they had their dog.” Lane,
D., McNicholas, J., & Collis, G., 1998,
Applied Animal Behaviour Science 59(1-3),
"Consistent with the
great majority of other literature on assistance
dogs, assessments across a diverse range of
areas confirmed the positive impact of the the
service dogs on the lives of these individuals."
handlers') positive expectations were
commensurate with their actual experience once
the dog had been placed with them and they had
several months of experience working with the
participants rated their satisfaction with their
dogs as very high, on average".
According to this
study, even though the assistance dogs were
trained to help with difficulties associated
with the physical impairment of the handlers,
many life areas showed improvement after
placement of a service dog, including "number of
friends, self-esteem, physical fitness, leisure
activities, happiness, assertiveness, job
performance, and acceptance of disability."
Also, "their social approachability had improved
dramatically after the placement of a service
“Despite the fact
that self-esteem was relatively high among
participants before obtaining the service, a a
standardized quantitative measure of self-esteem
indicated significant improvement from before to
after placement of the dog.”
participants also reported benefits to their
family and caregivers. Individuals with
disabilities often need both paid and unpaid
assistance from caregivers. Unpaid assistance
often comes from family members, pacing some
degree of burden on the family care-givers.
Reduction in the time needed for care-giving can
have a positive impact on the overall
functioning of the family and positively affect
both the individual with a disability as well as
other family members."
studies were all conducted with participants who
used assistance dogs to help with physical
disabilities, we feel that many of the same
benefits apply to individuals withpsychiatric
More information on how dogs assist individuals
with these disabilities is available on the
interior pages of our website, and as new
research and findings surface based on
assistance dogs serving these populations we
will continue to update.